Social Sciences Book Reviews

THE BLACK PRESIDENCY by Michael Eric Dyson
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Dyson succeeds admirably in creating a base line for future interpretations of this historic presidency. His well-written book thoroughly illuminates the challenges facing a black man elected to govern a society that is far from post-racial."
An early assessment of America's first black presidency. Read full book review >
ONE CHILD by Mei Fong
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Finished just before the announcement of the policy's demise, One Child is a touching and captivating anthropological investigation of one of the most invasive laws ever devised."
Widespread female infanticide and officials jailing pregnant women's families to induce them to surrender to abortions—these are scenes not from a dystopian novel but from China's family planning bureaucracy. Read full book review >

WHILE THE CITY SLEPT by Eli Sanders
HEALTH & MEDICINE
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"An exceptional story of compelling interest in a time of school shootings, ethnic and class strife, and other unbound expressions of madness and illness."
Disturbing, sometimes-horrifying story of true crime and justice only partially served. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"A provocative, well-told story of love at all costs and an incisive examination of the continued violation of women's rights in Afghanistan."
A Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist's account of how two young Afghanis from warring ethnic clans risked disgrace and death to wed each other.Read full book review >
TOWARD A MORE PERFECT UNIVERSITY by Jonathan R. Cole
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"An ambitious and visionary examination of American universities and 'how to develop them still further so that they may maximize their full potential.'"
A distinguished Columbia University sociology professor and former provost examines how American universities must evolve to maintain their global pre-eminence. Read full book review >

IN A DIFFERENT KEY by John Donvan
HEALTH & MEDICINE
Released: Jan. 19, 2016

"An invaluable guide for those dealing with autism and an inspiring affirmation of every individual's contribution to 'the fabric of humanity.'"
How autism has been transformed over the past century into "a threat that stalk[s] the nation," giving pause to prospective parents. Read full book review >
THE <i>DEFENDER</i> by Ethan Michaeli
HISTORY
Released: Jan. 12, 2016

"A pertinent, well-fashioned American success saga."
This chronicle of the influential black Chicago newspaper simultaneously tracks the important issues pertaining to African-American history from the turn of the 19th century. Read full book review >
THE CONFIDENCE GAME by Maria Konnikova
PSYCHOLOGY
Released: Jan. 12, 2016

"With meticulous research and a facility for storytelling, Konnikova makes this intriguing topic absolutely riveting."
What makes a con artist, and why are we duped by them? New Yorker columnist Konnikova (Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, 2013) takes us deeply into the art and psychology of the con game.Read full book review >
DEMOCRACY IN BLACK by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Jan. 12, 2016

"A powerful and thoughtful call for 'a revolution of value and a radical democratic awakening' aimed at ending America's persistent racial crisis."
Glaude (Chair, African American Studies/Princeton Univ.; African American Religion: A Very Short Introduction, 2014, etc.) explores the worsening state of racial inequality under the nation's first black president.Read full book review >
CITY OF THORNS by Ben Rawlence
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 5, 2016

"A significant, timely, and gloomy tale that reveals the human costs of a growing world crisis."
Former Human Rights Watch researcher Rawlence (Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest War, 2012) tells the distressing story of Kenya's vast Dadaab refugee camp, where nearly 500,000 people fleeing civil war in nearby Somalia live in a "teeming ramshackle metropolis" the size of Atlanta.Read full book review >
THIS IS WHY YOU'RE SINGLE by Laura Lane
SOCIAL SCIENCES
Released: Dec. 8, 2015

"Definitely not your mother's guide to finding the perfect guy: at once hilarious and seriously practical."
Cutting-edge dating advice for millennial women. Read full book review >
STONED by Aja Raden
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

"A lively, incisive cultural and social history."
A jewelry designer and historian's account of how the desire for diamonds, gold, and other precious stones and metals has shaped history. Read full book review >
Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >